The SlowExposures Photography Festival
This week, Lenscratch celebrates the SlowExposures Photography Festival. Each day we will highlight different exhibitions (except for Friday).
Just a month ago, I packed my suitcase and headed to the SlowExposures Photography Festival in Zebulon, Georgia. I had no idea what to expect and to be honest, had no idea what SlowExposures was, other than that photography was involved. Photographer and festival guru Donna Rosser asked me to juror the SlowExposures Exhibition, along with the wonderful Alexa Dilworth, Publishing and Awards Director/Editor, CDS Books, at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. Each year they select one juror from the South and one juror from elsewhere in the U.S. and invite them to curate an exhibition on the Rural South. We selected the Main SlowExposures Exhibition from over 1,000 images down to 70, as a way of celebrating the variety of interpretations of the contemporary American South. (The SE Exhibition will be featured tomorrow).
Alexa and I became fast friends through the jurying process and decided to arrive a day early to take a road trip and explore the back roads of Georgia. I was captivated by the clouds and the farm land, landscapes unfolding like Dutch Master paintings and I began to understand the allure of making work in the American South.
In it’s 12th year, the festival takes place during the last two weeks of September and welcomes visitors from across the United States to experience the rural South through the medium of fine art photography. Besides the main SlowExposures Exhibition, visitors attended satellite shows that ranged from “Pop-Ups” featuring individual and group collections, cutting edge seminars, book signings, and events that invited lively dialogue between photographers and the public.
Pike County is only an hour from Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson International Airport and upon arrival the first thing one encounters is a rolling, verdant landscape where, once, “Cotton was King”. The exhibitions are displayed in late nineteenth-century buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, in a variety of barns, and in pop-up exhibitions spaces around the county. This “sense of place” makes for an experience filled with shared, serendipitous moments where the energy is infectious and the conversations, thought-provoking. In other words, the festival is filled with a lot of heart and community.
We arrived in Zebulon and went straight to the bookstore owned by festival creator, Christine Curry, which was the heart of the activity, got our lodging assignment and headed off to a beautiful home and a small lake.
Two out of the three dinners were held in private homes, which allowed us to really get a feel for Southern hospitality and food. Thursday night was an incredible buffet of homemade lasagnas offered at the home of Joy Walker and Peter Potter (who happened to have an airplane in their front yard).
Friday evening was the official SlowExposures Soiree was held at the home of founder Christine Curry. It was a magical setting, lights strung throughout the trees and not only offered up cocktails and home made tacos (provided by a visiting California sister), but three exhibitions–the Posse Exhibition (Anne Berry, Ann George, Bryce Lankard, Lori Vrba, and S. Gayle Stevens) in the horse barn, the Off the Page Exhibition (Jerry Atnip, Nick Dantona, Robert McCurley, Jerry Park, Mark Mosrie, Rick Smith, and Chuck Arlund) in a rented truck, and across the road in an the old tenant house were several exhibitions, Once featuring the work of Shannon H. Herren and W. A. Chamberlain and Locals featuring the work of Darrell Brown, Fawne DeRosia, Malgosia Florkowska, Shannon Herren, Dale Niles, Susan Perry, Bill Chamberlain, Marilyn Rogers, and Ton Walborn.
On Saturday, Alexa and I gave workshops at the Lunch and Learn day at R.F.Strickland building in Concord, Georgia, followed by a catered fried chicken dinner just beyond where the SlowExposures Exhibition was hanging. Sunday morning Strickland’s also hosted the opening brunch that took place after after our jurors talk. In addition to the SlowExposures Exhibition, there was also a Student show jurored by Judith Pishnery .
We had a difficult time selecting the winners as we loved all of the work, but photographer Ashley Kauschinger came away with the Paul Conlan First Prize for her beautifully articulated image, Morning Ritual, from her series, Questions of Origins.
The heart of any photo festival comes from the incredible volunteer staff, and SlowExposures was no exception. Dozens of photography loving individuals helped organize, hang exhibitions, set up for meals and workshops, and much more. There was such a feeling of pride and enthusiasm generated by everyone involved.
Accompanying the main exhibition were a host of truly stellar shows, including McNair Evan’s exhibition of his new project and monograph, Confessions of a Son. McNair won the SlowExposures first prize in 2013, and part of that award was a solo exhibition. We will feature his exhibition and work later this week.
One of the highlights was an exhibition curated by the wonderful New York Curator, John A. Bennette featuring Eliot Dudik‘s project, Broken Land and Still Lives (featured recently on Lenscratch). Mr. Bennette was inspired by Eliot’s images and ideas as well as The Good Lord Bird: A Novel by James McBride, winner of the 2013 National Book Award. It is an inspired and imaginative retelling of the events around abolitionist John Brown’s cause from the perspective of 12 year-old Henry Shackleford, a Kansas slave. Eliot’s 9 foot images were hung in a local store that cleared space for the exhibition.
Saturday night, The Do Good Collection of Southern photographs was on exhibition at the Whiskey Bonding Barn complete with peacock cocktails. (This exhibition will be featured later this week).
Angelina Bellebuono had a pop-up show, Stitching Hope/Sewing Tomorrow. Other exhibitions included Living Proof featuring work by Valerie Hayes, Clifford Blizard’s Dirt Road Pilgrimage, and Meryl Truett’s show, A Novel Experience.
It was hard to say goodbye to a host of new friends and the soul sucking landscape of the South. I got my fill of taxidermy stores and ended the weekend at a Dairy Queen with Alexa as we drove back to the Atlanta airport and back to our lives, feeling changed by the warmth, heart and experience of SlowExposures. Thank you for inviting us!
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